By Mariela Angella Oladive
Over 20 performances from the delegates across 12 countries in Asia weaved hope in Iloilo City and showcased beyond self-expression the transformative power of theatre to make change throughout the five-day celebration of the 7th Asian Youth Theater Festival ‘23 on November 22 to 26 at the University of San Agustin (USA) in Iloilo City.
The festival, themed “Weaving Hope,” hosted by the USA Little Theater, welcomed participants from Brunei, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
The curtains were officially raised during day 0 of the event on November 22, where different performing arts groups from across the Philippines set the stage with stirring performances not only featuring the beauty of Filipino culture but also addressing societal issues every Filipino faced, giving voice, especially to the marginalized.
Among the performers were West Visayas State University’s (WVSU) Teatro Tayo, KM Project, Guang Ming Theater Ensemble, University of Saint La Salle (USLS) Maskara Theatre Ensemble (MTE), and Colegio San Agustin-Bacolod (CSA-B) Kanlaon Theater Guild.
The official opening kicked off the next day with a morning parade by the delegates at the Iloilo Esplanade on November 23.
The opening ceremony was held in the evening, attended by Hon. Jay Trenas, Iloilo City mayor’s executive assistant, guest speaker Cecile Alvarez-Guidote, founder of Philippine Education Theater, and other key figures.
Guidote delivered a heartfelt message, inspiring everyone to realize that theater and arts can move not only the heart but the society, describing the event “a perfect model of Asian solidarity and kinship.”
“Now, we see a creative explosion of talent and excitement to really serve the people with arts, to promote peace, environmental protection, to provide our young people with a secure, healthy, peaceful future, and you are taking your destiny in your hands by using arts as effective cultural communication, to popularize science, to inform, to empower especially the marginalized,” Guidote added.
Additionally, the University of San Agustin Little Theater (USALT) filled the auditorium with passion as they performed the ‘Passion Fruit Shake, The Musical,’ engaging everyone to think about their passion.
“There was a palpable feeling of passion and purpose, as well as inspiration to dream some more using theatre as a medium of change,” said Sir Eric Divinagracia, USALT artistic director during an interview when asked about the first day of the celebration.
He added: “Our heart is full, there is no measure for that.”
Meanwhile, audiences shared their experiences.
“Her [pointing to the photo of Ms. Guidote] speech touched my heart very much. It’s incredible that it makes me cry. Her message is very important for youth,” told Ka Yo from the team Japan to Daily Guardian. Her teammates Rho and Nono also shared their wonderful experiences in Iloilo City.
“It’s very amazing,” said Nono, while Rho was impressed by the Ilonggo people, saying: “The people here are very bright, talented, and always smiling.”
On the other hand, Berlu Jagolino, a student from WVSU who is mainly a dancer but also part of Teatro Tayo, shared his experience of watching AYTF for the first time, and how it left a lasting impression on him.
“As a first-timer, I even feel more passionate about theatre. It’s not just a form of art, but a life,“ Jagolino said.
The week-long celebration, apart from the performances, included engaging free workshops, providing participants with the opportunity to delve into various facets of theatre and artistic expression. There were also open mic sessions where anyone interested in performing could showcase their talents.
The highlight of the festival was the collaborative performance at the end of the celebration, which brought together performers from diverse backgrounds, weaving a tapestry of hope and inspiration through shared creativity and cultural unity, resonating with the festival’s overarching theme.
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Trenas, in a Facebook post, extended his heartfelt congratulations to the USA for fostering artistic brilliance by hosting the AYTF, writing: “Kudos to everyone involved in making this cultural exchange a resounding success.”